Food safety

INFOSAN Quarterly Summary
(January-March 2019)


During the fourth quarter of 2019, the INFOSAN Secretariat has been involved in 21 food safety events involving 59 WHO Member States, two territories of WHO Member States and one WHO Associate Member State. There were 13 events involving a biological hazard (Salmonella (5), Listeria monocytogenes (3), E.coli (3), ), Clostridium Botulinum (1), and Ciguatera toxin (1)), five involving a physical hazard (glass (3), metal (1) and plastic (1)), one involving a chemical hazard (Hydrocyanic Acid), one involving an undeclared allergen (peanuts), and two unknown hazards. Some events included multiple hazards.

The food categories most commonly involved in the 21 events during the first quarter of 2019 were milk and dairy products (4), nuts and oilseeds (4), cereals and cereal-based products (2), fish and other seafood (2), fruit and fruit products (2), sugar and confectionary (2), vegetables and vegetable products (2), food for infants and small children (1), products for special nutritional use (1), snacks, desserts, and other foods (1), and starchy roots and tubers (1). Some events included multiple food categories.

During such international food safety events, the INFOSAN Secretariat relies on the swift action of national INFOSAN Emergency Contact Points to respond to requests for information. Rapid sharing of information through INFOSAN enables members to implement appropriate risk management measures to prevent illness in their respective countries.


These events involved Member States from all WHO regions: Europe (27), followed by the Americas (15), the Western Pacific (8), Africa (6), the Eastern Mediterranean (5) and finally South-East Asia (1).

During this quarter, a multi-country outbreak of Salmonella Poona infections in France, Belgium and Luxembourg linked to the consumption of infant formula products manufactured at a single factory in Spain, was reported to the INFOSAN Secretariat. Products linked to this outbreak were distributed globally. The INFOSAN Secretariat worked in collaboration with the INFOSAN Emergency Contact Points in Spain and France to identify and share distribution details with INFOSAN members in recipient countries. The INFOSAN Secretariat also worked in close collaboration with the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) and the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) during this event response and contributed to the rapid outbreak assessment, available online. During this event, information sharing through INFOSAN helped to facilitate the recall of affected infant formula products and with the identification of secondary international distribution. No cases of illness were reported to the INFOSAN Secretariat in recipient countries outside of Europe.


Study of INFOSAN

In January 2019, a study was launched to explore the experiences of INFOSAN members and better understand the role of the network in mitigating the burden of foodborne illness around the world. The study will examine access to and usage of the INFOSAN Community Website, explore barriers and facilitators to active participation in INFOSAN, determine perceptions about the utility of INFOSAN to mitigate foodborne illness, and scrutinize if and how participation in this network creates value for members. A manuscript providing the background to this study has recently been published online , titled “The FAO/WHO International Food Safety Authorities Network in Review, 2004–2018: Learning from the Past and Looking to the Future”.

The First FAO/WHO/AU International Conference on Food Safety

On 12-13 February 2019, over 700 delegates gathered in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia for The First International Food Safety Conference, hosted jointly by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the World Health Organization (WHO) and the African Union (AU). During his address, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus emphasized the importance of INFOSAN and reminded delegates that “INFOSAN supports countries to manage food safety risks by sharing information, experiences and solutions”. INFOSAN was exhibited during the conference and enabled participants to meet with the INFOSAN Secretariat and exchange ideas on how to strengthen INFOSAN globally.

National INFOSAN Workshop in Tunisia

In March 2019, the INFOSAN Secretariat facilitated a two-day national workshop in Tunis, Tunisia, organized in collaboration with l'Agence Nationale de Contrôle Sanitaire et Environnemental des Produits (ANCSEP) of Tunisia. The workshop gathered stakeholders in Tunisia involved in various areas related to food safety to sensitise them to the activities of INFOSAN and to strengthen and reinforce cross-sectoral collaboration at the national level.